Alma Allen is a self-taught American artist, known for carving organic form from found wood or marble and making bronzes.Read More
He used to live and work in an isolated part of Joshua Tree, California, but subsequently moved to Tepotzlán, Mexico, living in writer William Burrough's old house.
Initially a teenage runaway fleeing a Mormon household, Allan began making small, polished conglomerate sculptures to sell on the streets of New York after he had a bad bike accident and was desperate for cash for food.
After moving to Los Angeles in the early 2000s, his work increased in scale and he connected with art dealers on the east and west coasts. Later on, he moved to Mexico.
When carving or casting, Alma Allen makes his giant, lopsided tuber-like forms with spontaneous shifts in direction and with maquettes instead of preparatory drawings. He prefers not to give them titles and explores different scales and shiny patinas or gritty surface textures, as in Not Yet Titled (2014), Untitled (2013), Not Yet Titled (2019), and Not Yet Titled (2020).
Relying on the sensitivity of clay when pressured by his fingertips, to create larger works he designed a robot for his Mexican studio as an extension of his (now failing) arm.
Often made as smaller prototypes when Allen was homeless, his strangely Surrealist works as polished bronzes hint at vulnerability and sensitivity, alluding to brittle ancient shells, writhing pods, ossified but striated viscera, and internal mental pain.
Although abstract, the artist's sculptures are richly allusive. They seem weightless, suggesting the convulsive and airborne together—and having an unusual corporeal anxiety very different from modernist sculptors like Constantin Brancusi or Isamu Noguchi, who embrace a purer, less bodily, more pristine form of geometry.
Allen often makes functional domestic craft objects as well as contemplative sculpture, these also having much attention devoted to surface detail.
Alma Allen has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions.
Recent solo exhibitions include Alma Allen, Kasmin Gallery, New York (2021); Alma Allen, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2019); Alma Allen, Blum & Poe, New York and Los Angeles (2016); Alma Allen, Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago (2016); Alma Allen, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2015); Alma Allen, Heath Ceramics, Los Angeles (2009); Hoodoos by Alma Allen, Play Mountain, Tokyo (2009).
Recent group exhibitions include Days of Inertia, Mendes Wood DM at D'Ouwe Kerk, Retranchement, Netherlands (2021); Between the Earth and Sky, Kasmin Gallery, New York (2021); 5,471 miles, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2020); At The Noyes House Blum & Poe, Mendes Wood DM and Object & Thing, The Eliot Noyes House, New Canaan, Connecticut (2020); In Conversation: Alma Allen & JB Blunk, Palm Springs Art Museum and Nevada Museum of Art, Reno (2018–2019); 2014 Whitney Biennial, New York.
Allen's work is held in the collection of the Palm Springs Art Museum, California.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2021